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Kelly Ann RYAN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Professional bodybuilder
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: December 13, 2005
Date of arrest: December 23, 2005
Date of birth: July 10, 1972
Victim profile: Melissa James, 29 (her personal assistant)
Method of murder: Undetermined
Location: Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada, USA
Status: Entered an Alford plea to arson and battery with a deadly weapon resulting in significant bodily harm. She was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 3–13 years in prison

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Kelly Ann Ryan (born July 10, 1972 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a former International Federation of BodyBuilders professional fitness competitor.

Personal and professional background

Kelly Ryan got an early start in her fitness career when, at age eight, she began to train in gymnastics. This would later serve as a foundation for other athletic activities she would become involved with in high school, such as cheerleading and basketball. After high school Kelly decided to pursue journalism at the University of South Carolina. While studying for her degree in journalism she also worked as a choreographer, which would prove very useful in her decision to become a top fitness athlete. Her first fitness competition was the NPC South Carolina State in 1995, where she placed first.

She would eventually end up winning eight fitness competitions. Her background and presence in fitness contests have made her a familiar face at fitness expositions as well as in fitness magazines. Her "Flyin' Ryan" Routine at the Arnold Classic was mixed by David "KrusH" Wilmore, who also provided the voice over for the announcer in her "Flyin' Ryan" Intro.

Previously married to body builder Craig Titus, Ryan filed for divorce while in prison in connection with the murder of Melissa James. The divorce became final in December 2009.

Death of assistant

On December 14, 2005 the burnt corpse of Ryan and Titus' personal assistant Melissa James was discovered inside a Jaguar car belonging to Kelly Ryan. The couple went into hiding together and were arrested along with suspected accomplice, Anthony Gross, after a nine day investigation.

The couple awaited trial in Nevada on charges in the murder of their live-in assistant, Melissa James who had had an affair with Titus. A prosecutor alleged in open court that Titus was part of a plot to murder three witnesses due to testify in the case. No charges were filed and Titus’ defense lawyer said he didn't think that there was enough evidence for charges in the allegation. While awaiting trial, Ryan's mother died of a heart attack said to have been precipitated by stress).

The trial of co-defendant Anthony Gross on arson and accessory to murder charges was separated from the murder trial for Titus and Ryan.

On May 31, 2008, rather than going through a trial, Ryan along with Titus pleaded guilty to reduced charges, with Ryan entering an Alford plea to arson and battery with a deadly weapon resulting in significant bodily harm. She was then sentenced to two consecutive terms of 3–13 years in prison. She will not be eligible to walk out of prison until 2015 when her next parole hearing will be granted, since she was denied parole in December of 2011 for undisclosed reasons. She remains in custody at the Florence McClure Women's Correctional Facility in Nevada.


Bodybuilders Plead Guilty In Gruesome Slay

February 11, 2009

Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan were stars in the world of professional bodybuilding. The married couple posed for magazines and competed at events while trying to turn their chiseled muscles and crafted images into fame and fortune.

It all went to ashes in Dec. 14, 2005, when the charred corpse of their live-in personal assistant, Melissa James, was found in Ryan's burned-out red Jaguar sedan off a remote desert road outside Las Vegas.

"It's a situation where two very successful people flamed out in America's Sin City," said Glenn Puit, a former newspaper reporter who wrote a book about the case.

"That's not sensationalizing it," Puit said. "You've got two beautiful, popular people charged with murdering a woman in the most horrific manner possible."

Titus and Ryan were arrested in a Boston suburb after a nine-day nationwide manhunt. Ryan was getting her nails done at a Stoughton, Mass., salon while Titus waited outside.

Titus, 43, pleaded guilty late Friday to second-degree murder. Ryan, 35, pleaded guilty to arson and entered an Alford plea to battery with a deadly weapon resulting in significant bodily harm. The Alford plea means Ryan didn't admit guilt but acknowledged that enough evidence exists to convict her. Both Titus and Ryan were originally charged with murder with a deadly weapon in the case. James had moved from Lambertville, N.J., in 2005 to live with the couple.

"We've always believed that Craig Titus was responsible for Melissa's death and Kelly was primarily involved in covering up the death," said Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas. "Whether we obtained those results by a jury verdict or guilty plea was unimportant to us."

Titus also had a drug history. He served almost two years in federal prison after being convicted of selling Ecstasy in October 1995. He got probation, but it was revoked when he tested positive for steroids. He was released in April 1999.

Friends told police that Titus and Ryan used the prescription painkiller OxyContin, and witnesses testified that Titus once bought $500 worth of morphine. Both Titus and Ryan told police they injected the synthetic opiate Nalbuphine, and that Ryan tried methamphetamine.

"Defendants admit to steroid use and there are steroids within their house," prosecutors say in pretrial court documents, which also raise the issue of steroid-induced aggression sometimes called "'roid rage."

Titus is a 1996 bodybuilding champion and Mr. Olympia competitor, and Ryan a past Fitness America and Fitness International winner.

They initially claimed that James died of an overdose. They told police they panicked, burned her body in the car and then left town because they were worried publicity about her death would hurt their careers. They were arrested Dec. 23, 2005, in Stoughton, Mass.

Prosecutors accused them of using a stun gun, administering morphine or a related drug, and asphyxiating or suffocating James with a fabric or wire around her neck. However, the cause of her death was ruled "undetermined" by the coroner.

The couple told police that they took James into their home to manage a fitness clothing business they wanted to start, but evicted her after they said they discovered she was looting their bank accounts.

Titus also told police he'd had an affair with James that Ryan didn't know about.

The couple acknowledged use of steroids and claimed James also had a history of drug use.

Sentencing was set for July 18. Titus faces 15 to 55 years in prison. Each of Ryan's charges carry sentences of two to 15 years in prison, or the judge can give her probation.


Bodybuilders Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan Sentenced for Murder

August 23, 2008

Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan took a plea bargain regarding the death of their former personal assistant Melissa James, 29, of Lambertville, N.J.

In February 2008, Anthony Gross, Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan's accomplice also pleaded guilty in the Melissa James murder case.

Craig Titus Sentencing

Craig Titus, 44, pleaded guilty on May 30, 2008 to second-degree murder, kidnapping and arson. The plea allowed Craig Titus  to avoid trial and avoid the death penalty.

Craig Titus received a sentence of 21 to 51 years. Craig Titus will not be eligible for parole until 2026-12-23.

Kelly Ryan Sentencing 

Kelly Ryan pleaded guilty to arson and Nevada’s equivalent of no contest to battery with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 6 to 26 years. The plea allowed Kelly Ryan to avoid trial and avoid the murder charge.

Kelly Ryan is serving her sentence at Florence McLure Women's Correctional Center in Nevada. Kelly Ryan will be eligible for parole as early as 2011.

The Melissa James Murder

Prosecutor Robert Daskas said Melissa James was beaten, drugged, stunned with a Taser, injected with morphine and strangled before she was “burned beyond anybody’s recognition” in the trunk of Ryan’s Jaguar.  James’ head was encased in duct tape, and showed the court graphic photos of a “death mask” formed by her face when it peeled away with the heavy tape during her autopsy.

Daskas said investigators could never say for sure whether James was still alive in the back of the red Jaguar caught on videotape outside a Wal-Mart – where Ryan bought charcoal starter fluid and a backyard barbecue set at 3:30 a.m. – or at a gas station where Titus, Ryan and a friend, Anthony Gross, allegedly bought another $2.66 worth of gasoline. The barbecue set was later found burned in Ryan’s car. Gross met Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan at the gas station and drove them back to Las Vegas after they set Kelly Ryan’s Jaguar ablaze in the desert outside Las Vegas. 

Kelly Ryan Statement

Ryan stated the following in court, “I am truly, truly sorry,” Ryan said. “I know I did not kill. But I did aid in the events. I know I was not in a state of mind emotionally or physically to make the right decisions or to, oh God, to take appropriate control of what was happening.”

Craig Titus Statement

Craig Titus said, “I am ashamed and sickened of my actions after Melissa (James) passed away. I let drug use get way out of control in my home,” he said. “I failed my wife. I failed my family. And most regretfully, I failed Melissa (James), who was my friend.”

Craig Titus Appeal

In December 2008 Craig Titus made a request for a sentence reduction which District Judge Jackie Glass denied. Craig Titus is currently serving his sentence at Ely State Prison, Nevada's only maximum security prison.

Anthony Gross, Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan's Accomplice Pleads Guilty

In February 2008, Anthony Gross, Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan's accomplice pleaded guilty in the Melissa James murder case. Gross plead guilty to accessory to arson and accessory to commit first degree arson. The two are both felony charges.

If Gross successfully completes his probation, Gross will be permitted to withdraw his guilty plea to the two felony offenses, plead guilty to the gross misdemeanor charge of Conspiracy to Commit 3rd Degree Arson and receive credit for time served. If Gross doesn’t complete the probation the two felony charges will remain.


Bodybuilders Take Plea Deal in Assistant's Murder

By Amanda Hernandez -

May 31, 2008

The celebrity bodybuilder couple accused of murdering their assistant will save the county the trouble of a trial. Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan finalized a plea deal with prosecutors late Friday afternoon, avoiding a trial set to begin Monday.

Over two years ago, police found the remains of Melissa James in a burned- out car in the desert. Titus and Ryan fled the state and changed their appearances, but were captured in Massachusetts after a national manhunt.

The district attorney's office says it's a fair deal. It's one both the victim's family and detectives in the case agree with, because it makes Craig Titus admit to murder and his wife to helping destroy evidence.

"I think both defendants recognize that a train was coming down the tracks and either they resolved it today or we were going to go to a jury trail and leave it up to a jury," said prosecutor Robert Daskas.

With the couple both facing possible life sentences for murder, Titus moved to save his wife.

"As we approached trial, Craig Titus became more and more worried about the exposure his wife was going to have to first degree murder," said Titus' attorney Marc Saggese.

Titus agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder in the death of his live-in assistant Melissa James, along with kidnapping and arson.

"He did accept responsibility and that is evidenced by his entering into a guilty plea," said Saggese.

By admitting to the murder, Ryan was cleared of the charge and given a plea deal of battery with a deadly weapon and first degree arson.

"She was faced with more serious charges -- significantly more serious charges. We feel that this is a fair resolution for her," said Ryan's attorney Michael Cristalli.

She now faces no criminal liability in James' death. But with overwhelming evidence, both had to admit to arson.

"We had strong evidence that they purchased lighter fluid that was used to ultimately light the car with Melissa James in the trunk," said Daskas.

The prosecutor says, while there are unanswered questions about James' murder, details are finally coming out.

"We've always believed, and I think the guilty pleas reflects that there was a confrontation between Kelly and Melissa and that Craig intervened, and ultimately it was Craig Titus that killed Melissa James," said Daskas.

Titus has asked to speak at his sentencing so he can apologize to James' mother, who was once a close friend.

"He has never had an opportunity to talk to her or say he was sorry or to discuss how this unfolded," said Saggese.

Titus faces 15 to 55 years in prison. He has already served two and a half years. Kelly Ryan's attorney says he has asked to argue for probation for her charges.


Indictment unsealed: Autopsy: Drugs in body

Fitness champs charged in assistant's death

March 25, 2006

An autopsy showed that the personal assistant of Kelly Ryan and Craig Titus had morphine and heroin byproducts in her system at the time of her death. It also indicated that she had previously used methamphetamine.

Both the cause and manner of death for Melissa James, 28, was officially listed as undetermined, giving defense attorneys for Ryan and her husband, Titus, the opportunity to maintain what the pair once told police -- that James died of a drug overdose, they panicked and disposed of her body.

"The defense can make hay out of it," former Prosecutor Charles Kelly, now a local defense attorney, said of the autopsy results.

Titus and Ryan and a co-defendant, Anthony Gross, were in District Court on Friday to face charges stemming from James' death in December.

The indictment, unsealed in the courtroom of District Judge David Wall, charges Titus and Ryan with murder with use of a deadly weapon, first-degree kidnapping and third-degree arson.

The indictment charges Gross with accessory to murder and arson in connection with allegations he helped the fitness champions dispose of James' body.

Titus, 40, is a past place-winner of international Mr. Olympia competitions. Ryan, 33, is a past Ms. Fitness America and Ms. Olympia runner-up.

James was found dead Dec. 14 in the back of Ryan's torched Jaguar in the desert off state Route 160. Titus and Ryan first told police they didn't know how James ended up dead in the car.

Authorities said the couple then fled Las Vegas and were arrested Dec. 23 outside Boston, where they told police James died of a drug overdose in Ryan's car in their garage before they disposed of her body, burning it in the process.

In a third scenario regarding the death, authorities said, Titus later agreed with an FBI agent's premise that perhaps he was having rough sex with James and she died.

The autopsy report notes that "opiate intoxicants" were in James' system. The Review-Journal was unable to access documents detailing the exact levels of the metabolites of the drugs in her system.

However, other documents show there are a number of other clues garnered from the autopsy and crime scene that would seem to contradict the premise that she somehow died of a drug overdose.

Namely, a coroner's report details that a ligature was found around James' neck.

"Head was wrapped in an apparent blanket," the report said. "Beneath the burned blanket, there was apparent duct tape around her head and face, and a cloth strip and wires around her neck."

James' body was badly burned with an accelerant. Ryan was captured on a Wal-Mart surveillance video buying accelerant shortly before the body was found.

In his statement to police claiming James died of an accidental drug overdose, Titus told authorities he had, in fact, duct-taped James' face while her body was on the floor of his home.

"Put a blanket on the ground, grabbed another blanket and I taped up her head," Titus said. "I didn't want to see her face. I didn't want to see her face.

"I took the tie off one of my robes, and I put it on the back of her neck and pushed her knees up and tied her knees to her chest," Titus said. "Then we wrapped her up in a blanket and taped it up and put her in the trunk.

"Then I put her in the trunk and dropped her a couple times," Titus said. "Kelly was crying hysterically.

"She's my (expletive) friend man," Titus said. "So (expletived) up. Now it's worse."

When asked by police to explain the wires around James' neck, which Titus originally didn't mention, Titus said: "You know, honestly, this is the honest to God truth, when I, when I was tying her up in the cocoon-like position ... I used duct tape and I used the robe ties ... but there was something else I used that broke. I can't remember what it was. A phone cord maybe."

Titus also addressed James' drug use in his statement to police, which reads:

"Crystal methamphetamines ... Oxycontins, crystal methamphetamine, Nubane, cocaine, morphine, which I didn't know till the end."

Kelly said the autopsy results will be somewhat helpful to defense attorneys in the case, but prosecutors will try to argue that burning someone in the trunk of a car isn't consistent with a reaction to a drug overdose.

Kelly said perhaps the biggest challenge defense attorneys face is explaining the defendants' multiple versions of James' death.

"Which one do you want us to believe?" Kelly said.


Body in burned car: Conflicting statements

Pair accused of killing personal assistant told different stories about sex, drugs

By Glenn Puitt -

February 15, 2006

In their first statements to police, slaying suspects Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan said they didn't know how the charred body of their personal assistant, Melissa James, ended up in the trunk of Ryan's car.

But in two subsequent statements to authorities, the fitness champions changed their story, saying James died of a drug overdose at their house, and that they burned James' body to avoid negative publicity from the accidental death.

"Found her (James) in the (expletive) car dead, stinking up my (expletive) car," Titus told detectives in a Dec. 24 taped interview in Boston.

"I panicked. That gets in the newspaper, we're ruined. Dead girl, car, OD'd, Craig Titus, Kelly Ryan. We're (expletive) ruined," Titus said.

"Plus, not to mention that my car's ruined ... so I think OK, let's put her in the trunk and burn it and play stupid. That's what we did. Period. Finito. End of story."

In a third statement, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, however, Titus agreed with an FBI agent's suggestion that perhaps he was having rough sex with James and she died.

"Yeah, we were having sex and she OD'd," the FBI agent quoted Titus as saying. "Let's go with that. That's a good story."

The conflicting statements about James' death are contained in nearly 500 pages of voluntary statements given by Titus and Ryan to Las Vegas homicide detectives. Titus and Ryan are charged with murder in the December death of James, and copies of the couple's statements were obtained by the Review-Journal this week.

Titus' attorney, Richard Schonfeld, wouldn't discuss specifics of his client's statements. But he said the statements Titus and Ryan gave to police in Massachusetts will be suppressed because police never notified Titus or Ryan they were recording them, as required by law in that state.

"No doubt in my mind it will be suppressed," Schonfeld said. "It was illegal what they did."

Ryan's attorney, Thomas Pitaro, could not be reached for comment.

Louis Palazzo, a defense attorney for a third defendant charged in the case, Anthony Gross, wouldn't comment.

Clark County prosecutor Robert Daskas also wouldn't comment on this story.

Titus is a past place-winner of the international Mr. Olympia competitions, and Ryan is a past Ms. Fitness America and Ms. Olympia runner-up.

Hours after James' body was found burning in the desert in Ryan's car on Dec. 14, Titus and Ryan each gave police lengthy taped statements. In their first statements, the couple said they suspected James might be stealing from them and perhaps was planning to steal their identities.

"OK, one example, she went online and changed my pass codes," Ryan said. "OK. She requested new security information be sent to her and new banking cards sent to her."

Ryan said she confronted James about her suspicions that James was stealing, and James decided she was going to leave and head home to New Jersey for Christmas. The day before James was found murdered, Ryan said, she gave James a ride to a convenience store and dropped her off.

Ryan and Titus then speculated to police that James somehow returned to their house, snuck into their garage and stole Ryan's car.

Titus and Ryan said they didn't know what happened to James after that. But Titus suggested James was using methamphetamine and that a drug dealer named Eddie could be responsible for her death.

"He's real cool, drug dealer, you know, 'Pay me, I'll kill ya' type, (expletive) idiot," Titus told police.

Titus told police that if he found out who killed James before the detectives did, he would hunt the person down and harm them.

"I'll tell ya something right now," Titus said. "If I find this (expletive) guy before you guys do, I'm gonna (expletive) him up. I'll call you when I do."

After their statements were given, authorities said, Titus and Ryan fled across country.

They were arrested outside Boston and, on Dec. 24, gave more statements to the FBI and Las Vegas police.

This time, Titus and Ryan said they had found James dead of an overdose in Ryan's car, a needle sticking out of her arm, and, instead of simply calling police, they panicked.

"Craig and I started thinking, ah, she's got drugs in the house, ah, he (Titus is) a felon," Ryan said. "Well, there's steroids."

Ryan and Titus said they dragged James' body into their house, wrapped James' face with duct tape and put her body in blankets, and then put her in the trunk of Ryan's Jaguar.

"She wasn't stiff," Ryan said. "She was very heavy. Very heavy. Very, very. And I remember that she, she was (a) mess, and so heavy I think I probably ended up dropping her."

"So, ah, it's real simple, guys," Titus told detectives. "We took her out of the car and put her in the fetal positionand put her in the trunk of my car and we burned it.

"Drug her in the house," Titus said. "This is (expletive) gross, man. Put her in a fetal position, wrapped her up, put her in the trunk."

Titus said they decided to dispose of James' body to avoid negative publicity that could ruin their fitness careers.

"She (Ryan) is the number one fitness athlete in the world," Titus said. "Highly respected in the sport, and if you think of fitness, Kelly Ryan. Period. ... And here we walk in our garage and our friend's OD'd in our (expletive) car. So if that gets out to the public, we're ruined."

Ryan said she bought lighter fluid at a Wal-Mart, and her husband called Gross. The trio then went to the desert off state Route 160, where Ryan said Titus set Ryan's car on fire with James' body in the trunk.

"We just basically got rid of a body, and how we gonna explain it," Ryan said. "Um, you know, obviously if we thought that, you know, by burning the car it would get rid of ah, of the person completely. Um, I don't know, I don't know why."

At one point during the interview, Titus said he and Ryan couldn't have murdered James because if they had, they wouldn't be dumb enough to burn the body in a car registered to Ryan.

"If I really wanted to ... burn her and it was a murder, I would of dug a hole out in the desert and dumped her in the hole, and burned my car myself," Titus said. "You know what I mean?

"It's that simple," Titus said. "Nobody ever found her. My car would be burned and stolen. End of story.

"So I mean ... it doesn't take a (expletive) genius to know, well, you know, if you're gonna murder somebody, you don't put her in your car and burn her," Titus said.

"Unless somebody panics," a detective tells Titus.

"Yeah, well, unless they're really stupid," Titus said.

At another point in the interview, Titus asks police if they found steroids in his house.

"Did you guys find my steroids?" Titus asks the detectives.

"Yeah," a detective responds.

"You did find it?" Titus said. "(Expletive,) man. That's pretty good investigation."

Ryan acknowledges to police that she once used methamphetamine with James. And Titus tells police he, his wife and James also used a painkiller called Nubane, which is commonly used by fitness athletes.

Titus denied he was having an affair with James, although he acknowledged having sex with her years ago.

But in yet another statement to authorities, an FBI agent said Titus told him that, he, James and Ryan had all had sex together in the past.

The FBI agent then poses a possible scenario of Titus having rough sex with James and her dying.

"You admitted to placing a ligature around (James') neck and placing duct tape around her face," the FBI agent said he told Titus. "You'd previously admitted that the three of you had sex together. Also, you did drugs together. Could this have been a sex act gone bad?

"You were having kinky sex together and something went wrong," the agent said he told Titus. "You were having sex. You had her tied up. You were using drugs and maybe she OD'd."

The FBI agent then summarized in a report Titus's response to the scenario.

"Titus responded words to the effect, 'Yeah, we were having sex and she OD'd. Let's go with that. That's a good story.' "

"After making this statement, Titus paused for a moment and then stated 'No more questions.'"



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